Friday, June 20, 2014

Why Archives & Human Rights? Let the TAVP Interns Tell You.

Why Archives & Human Rights? Why TAVP?
Archives have long played a role in the field of human rights, but recently, there has been more interest in broadening the relationship between archives and human rights and re-envisioning the role, the function and even the definition of archives. Texas After Violence Project is part of this movement to rethink the nature of archives and and its potential role in community building. 

During Spring semester 2014, TAVP hosted five interns from the University of Texas at Austin through a partnership with the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Dr. Charlotte Nunes, one of the co-organizers of its working group on Human Rights and Archives

We asked the interns what drew them to the area of Archives and Human Rights and here is what they had to say:
Lillie Leone, Plan II Junior at the University of Texas at Austin

Why Archives & Human Rights?
"I was interested in learning more about digital archiving because it is a very useful skill in this increasingly digitized world -- a skill that is applicable to a huge range of careers and that I am eager to learn.  
We are constantly bombarded with skewed images and distorted information and it is essential for the public to encounter first person and primary sources; the interviews conducted by TAVP go beyond statistics into the organic human experience of social issues affecting our country today. 
Although my Bridging Disciplines' focus is International Development, I am interested in human rights because the more "scientific" measurements of development are not only inextricably linked to the human experience, but ring hollow if removed from it. The study of human rights is pivotal to national development. 
"I was interested in TAVP because of the project's nature as a grassroots initiative to increase community awareness and discourse. It is extremely important to look at violations of human rights in a super power such as the United States; it is too easy to assume that violations don't occur in the world's most advanced countries.
And the TAVP interviews are priceless personal narratives; when historians look back, these oral histories will be the stories that truly matter. I have learned so much about the contradictions and tensions in local history from immersing myself in the  transcribing and formatting tasks."

Sharla Biefeld, Junior Women's and Gender Studies and Psychology Junior at the University of Texas at Austin

Why Archives & Human Rights?

"There are so many reasons why archives are important to the field of human rights: first, knowledge is central to the very idea of human rights. When alleged violations occur, or questions arise over whether an action was unjust, we need to access information about the events. Furthermore, it is important for future generations of activists, students, researchers and the general public to have access to documentation about human rights abuses and social justice issues. Without this documentation, atrocities and those victimized are in danger of being forgotten. It is also important for people have a space to discuss the human rights infractions they have endured, and an archive can serve as a platform for this discussion and its preservation. Finally, archives are important because of their potential to offer the space for competing narratives of a story. The expansive space of an archive can hold many competing voices."


"TAVP is a unique archive that is looking at an issue that has both local and global implications: the death penalty. I applied for an internship with TAVP so that I could see firsthand how an archive is created, maintained and used. As well, the subject matter TAVP explores is vitally important and I brought many questions with me to my work each day: questions about the rate of murder and executions in Texas and questions about how the capital system affects families and friends of the accused; families and friends of murder victims; attorneys; communities and the state as a whole. I wanted to work with TAVP so that I could help build the archive and begin to explore the answer to these important questions."

---------------------------------------------------------------- Jessica Rubio, Senior Government major and Bridging Disciplines scholar at the University of Texas at Austin

Why Archives & Human Rights?
"We often hear of human rights abuses and just as often hear about the lack of evidence for certain atrocities or a dearth of documentation of the abuses in question. Archiving efforts are vitally important to the advancement of human rights around the world, and I felt learning about these efforts was key to a well-rounded understanding of human rights."
"Not only is the subject matter that TAVP explores interesting, but the process of interviewing, transcribing, and archiving is a unique method historically and culturally. I knew that this wasn't a run-of-the-mill experience and that I'd gain insight into the long-term value of archiving human rights at a local level."
 Jordan Weber, International Relations and Global Studies Senior and Bridging Disciplines Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin

Why Archives & Human Rights?

"I have always been interested in human rights, in large part due to my own experiences growing up in a racially diverse inner-city neighborhood in the American South. Although not a target of discrimination or persecution myself, I have always been a keen and perceptive observer of the ways in which history, policy and cultural attitudes intersect in order to continuously disadvantage historically oppressed minority groups, as I saw time and time again throughout my youth. 

My experience sparked my interest in human rights and social justice, at both the international and domestic spheres. I have been fortunate enough to apply my interest in these topics in a number of valuable internships with civil rights and nonprofit organizations, including with TAVP.

As far as archiving goes, this was a new experience for me. I believe documentation is absolutely vital in making human rights work count, because archives serve as a tangible record from which to learn. My work at TAVP taught me about both the subject matter of the interviews, and about the effective strategies in archiving and documentation in order to make these interviews useable and valuable records."


"I chose to work with TAVP during Spring 2014 semester because I realized that it would provide me with an excellent opportunity to work in human rights / civil rights advocacy in a way that I never had before. 

Archiving is something that I had never really thought about before undertaking this project. Only now, after having some experience archiving TAVP's oral histories, do I understand how essential honest documentation is in human rights advocacy. 

I feel proud that I am able to contribute my part in recording these underrepresented stories. Furthermore, I am grateful that this project is locally focused, allowing me to learn about my own communities in a very real, and even rare, way. My experience with TAVP taught me an enormous amount about a significant issue that affects the communities in which I live." 
Tu-Uyen Nguyen, Classics, Latin and Asian American Studies Senior and Bridging Disciplines Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin

Why Archives & Human Rights?

"I have worked around collections and archives as a library worker at Perry Castaneda Library and the Life Science Library at UT-Austin. 
During an internship with the University of Texas at Austin Center for Asian American Studies and Asian American Resource Center, I was inspired to digitize a research binder of Asian American political activism at the University and in Austin in general. This work alerted me to the importance of archiving for advancing the field of human rights."

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